In most cases, it is actually worse for someone to steal your identity; the access they have allows them to file a false tax return using a stolen Social Security Number (SSN) in order to fraudulently claim your refund.
When this happens it is called: Tax Identity Fraud.
Tax identity theft has been the most common form of identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission for the past five years. So, how do you prevent tax identity theft from occurring?
File early. File your tax return as soon as you're able, giving criminals less time to use your information to file a false return. Keep these seven tips in mind:
- Watch the Wi-Fi. Make sure that when you’re filing your return, you use a secure and trusted Wi-Fi network. Avoid public networks, like at the local coffee shop or McDonalds.
- Use a secure mailbox. If you happen to be mailing in your tax return, mail it through a reliable source like the post-office, or official postal box. Unfortunately your mailbox at home isn’t the most protected and scammers have been known to search mailboxes come tax time.
- Taxman for hire. If you’re planning to hire someone to do your taxes, make sure that they are a reliable source. Don’t trust any ordinary Joe with your personal information.
- Shred it all. Once you’re done with documents that contain sensitive information, be sure to SHRED them. Or, if you have documents you need to keep, be sure that they are kept in a secure location.
- Go phish. Phishing scams have become increasingly popular with identity thieves with the online population increasing every day. So, if you receive a suspicious email asking for your information or a pop-up notification stating: “You’ve just won!” Don’t click on it. Sadly, if it’s too good to be true it probably is.
- Watch out for your W-2s. If you’re expecting your W-2s and haven’t received them and your employer indicates they've been mailed, or it looks like it has been previously opened upon delivery, contact the IRS immediately.
If you believe you're a victim of tax identity theft or if the IRS denies your tax return because one has previously been filed under your name, alert the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at (800) 908-4490. In addition, you should:
- Respond immediately to any IRS notice and complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit.
- Contact your bank immediately, and close any accounts opened without your permission or tampered with.
- Contact the three major credit bureaus to place a 'fraud alert' on your credit records: Equifax, www.Equifax.com, (800) 525-6285